… had nothing to do with somebody thinking I was pretty without any makeup on, or thinking I was funny when I got the punchline wrong.
As if anybody would care about that rubbish when they could be dreaming instead of having “wild magic” (the ability to shapeshift into animals) or being the first female knight in the realm of Tortall in over a century! Now those are teenage dreams worth having.
And, until I was at least sixteen (okay, I’m lying, right up until now), they were my dream: I wanted to be Veralidaine Sarrasri, the girl with the wild magic. I used to go to bed at night wishing I’d wake up as Alanna of Trebond – otherwise known as the Lioness – the female knight who would one day be King’s Champion.
Alanna and Veralidaine are characters from my favourite books as a teenager. “Daine” is the protagonist of the Immortals series and Alanna is the heroine of the Song of the Lioness quartet. Both these series are written by the glorious Tamora Pierce. As a teenager, I read these books over and over, wishing like heck that I could be transported from the small town of Wynyard, Tasmania, to the magical world that Pierce had created.
I wasn’t a feminist as a teenager – I didn’t really know what that meant. I thought boys were just as good as boys and I hoped, one day, that one of them might see past my geeky bookishness and want to be my boyfriend. However, I did yearn to be like the strong female characters in these books. I wished I wasn’t a small, ungainly klutz and was, instead, a kick-arse chick with a sword. My love of animals also meant I longed to have the powers Daine had, to communicate with, heal and, eventually, transform into, animals.
Don’t tell anyone but, some days, when I was alone in the backyard, I kind of tried …
Tamora Pierce has an incredible gift for creating characters that are at the same time strong and flawed; brave and vulnerable. This meant that even as a small, ungainly klutz, I could identify with them. They felt real, and this allowed me to believe that maybe, one day, I could be just like them.
Pierce is also very skilled at creating marvellous worlds that – while completely fantastical and breathtakingly magical – are very genuine. I completely believed in the universe she created. As a kid growing up on a small island, it was very possible to me that I could hop on a boat on Bass Strait and end up in Tortall, Carthak or the Yamani Islands.
No writer has ever really touched me the way Tamora Pierce did. No writer has ever been able to fully transport me to another universe; have me completely invested in the world and characters they have created. These books are completely immersive. I felt as though the characters were my friends; as if the places Pierce described were ones I’d visited or could visit if only my teenage dream came true.
Chris Morphew said in a speech at the CBCA conference in Hobart that he is blessed with the mind of a twelve year old boy. I’m blessed with the mind of a fifteen year old girl. I still believe that Daine and Alanna are out there, somewhere, talking with wolves or fighting the evil Duke Roger. Knowing that they’re out there is what keeps my dreams alive and what allows me to believe that, if a girl can become a wolf, or a King’s Champion, I can be anything I want to be as well. Tamora, Daine and Alanna taught me that anything, truly, is possible; that the world is magical …
And that you never should give up on your dreams.
What book most influenced you in your teenage years?